Annual Community Garage Sale March 2-3

The SHANNON Service Club of Bluffton is conducting their annual community garage sale and chicken BBQ on Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3.  The events will be held at the Centre.  Tickets are available from Duane Bollenbacher and Ben Stahl for a price of $8.50 per dinner.  More information can be found on the back bulletin board.  All proceeds are used for local community projects.

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Always Close (Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9)

Have you ever had a difficult choice to make?  Perhaps you have been offered a job but it meant moving, or you met the love of your life at the Philadelphia airport only he or she was heading for Baltimore on Delta and you were boarding Southwest going to Phoenix. Have you ever experienced one of those moments when you know that whatever choice you make it will change your life?  For followers of Jesus this should probably be what every minute of our lives feels like.  He’s that guy who tells us he’s going to be killed and we should follow him.  He’s that guy who says give up everything, sell your smart phone and follow me.  He’s that guy who has a claim on our moral universe in a way that no one else has.  He’s Jesus the Christ and this is the liturgical season of “follow him.”  It is Lent, after all.

At General Synod in Baltimore last summer, Reverend Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, told the delegates a great true story.  It’s a story particularly perfect for preachers and perfect for that moment and perfect for Lent, and she told it to call us all to faithful and compelling witness.  It’s the story of an invitation made to a crowd long ago by a gentleman standing high on a wire stretched over the Niagara Falls.

The tightrope walker’s name was Charles Blondin.  On June 30, 1859, he amazed a huge crowd by walking across 1,100 feet on a wire over Niagara Falls.  He walked back and forth several times, upping the ante with each crossing.  He did it blindfolded, on stilts, carrying somebody and stupefied the crowd by sitting down on the wire and cooking an omelet.  While crossing with a wheelbarrow he stopped and asked the crowd if they believed he could push a person in the wheelbarrow across the wire.  The crowd screamed, “Yes!”  Then he asked for a volunteer to climb in the wheelbarrow.  No one volunteered.

That’s it, isn’t it?  That’s the crux of Lent, of our faith, of all that’s possible for our churches, for our discipleship, for our denomination.  Reverend Blackmon asked us to climb in the wheelbarrow and announce to the world our faith–that God is present even today.  Is there a wheelbarrow in your faith story right now?  In the Gospels, Jesus never ceases to amaze the crowds with his feats and not everyone climbed in the wheelbarrow with him, either.  What is calling you, right now, or your congregation?  Are we ready to leave your comfortable spot looking up, and climb into the wheelbarrow?  Can we trust that much?

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God’s Loving Paths (Psalm 25:1-10)

How hard it is to untangle our mistakes without wanting to justify ourselves and explain why we did what we did, or how we misunderstood something or how others misunderstood us.  But sometimes the only path forward is to simply say, “I was wrong,” or to be able to see ourselves as we are with compassion.  Sometimes, opening ourselves to the deep truths of our imperfect world is the only way forward.

The singer of Psalm 25 hopes in God and wants instruction on God’s loving paths.  Lent is the time for instruction and repentance.  Can we sometimes participate in an evil we don’t recognize and still be lovable?  How do we morph into God’s best hope for us and invite the world into that same hope?

One way, the Psalmist exclaims, is to ask to see the truth.  Our world is full of hard truths, and the pervasive reality of white privilege is one of them.  “White  Privilege” is a term that can make some people bristle and feel assaulted.  “After all,” one might say, “I wasn’t handed anything in life.  I’ve worked hard for what I have.  I am not privileged.”  However, privilege can be a subtle thing and hard to see.  For example, people with white skin do not, during a normal day, consciously think about the fact that they are white.  People with brown skin think about it many times during a day because it can’t be avoided.  There is a privilege in not having to think about one’s skin color.  A privilege born in the culture we have inherited.

We may not have personally participate in making the social order but we move in it without noticing how our assumptions have been created by it.  And, if we are white, we benefit from that order in ways we don’t see.  God’s truth for us may be that we must open our eyes to what we have unconsciously inherited so that we can dismantle racism, even if we don’t feel racist.  We must do that with all people in service of the ideal, “A Just World for All.”  The first step is simply admitting there’s a problem.  We can’t fix something if we don’t think it’s broken.  And, the truth is that our world, especially regarding race, is broken.

Lent is both about brokenness and about hope.  There is always hope to be found in the truth.  As people of faith, we believe that.  We have a curriculum, available online, thoughtfully and sensitively crafted to begin a conversation in our communities about race and America, and the hard truth of white privilege.  Go to  You will find printed materials and videos to help you on this journey.  What better time than Lent to walk this path?

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Do You Want to Fast This Lent?

In the words of St. Francis:

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
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Lenten Activities Begin February 14

A combined Ash Wednesday service will be held with our sister church, Emmanuel United Church of Christ, at Emmanuel, beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14.  The imposition of ashes will be offered as well as communion.

Maundy Thursday service will be held at St. John’s UCC on Thursday, March 29, beginning at 7 p.m.

More information on the Good Friday community service will be forthcoming.


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Lenten Daily Devotional Booklets Available

To help us observe Lent, there are a number of daily devotional booklets available at the back of the church sanctuary on the windowsill.  If you are homebound and would like to have a booklet, you may contact the church office to receive one.


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Easter Lilies/Church World Service Blankets to be Ordered

It’s time to order Easter lilies and/or blankets for Easter Sunday!  Order forms will be placed in church bulletins through March 4.  The final day to place your orders is Sunday, March 4, 2018.

Only lilies will be available for purchase through the church this year due to the closing of our former distributor.  Our new provider can obtain only lilies, and the cost will be $8 per lily.  If you should care to purchase some other variety of flower to place at the altar, you may do so by purchasing it elsewhere and bringing it to the church.

If you wish to order Church World Service Blankets, they are $10.00 each.  Checks for either, or both, lilies and blankets are to be made payable to St. John’s UCC.



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Food Pantry in Need of Supplies

You will notice that the food pantry shelves empty out quickly, especially after the third Saturday distribution takes place.  Out of our abundance, we need to meet the needs of others.  On a Sunday morning, open your cupboard door and pull out a can, box, jar of something and bring it in and place it on the table at the front of the sanctuary.  (Please check expiration dates before bringing in items.)  Thank you!

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Sunday, February 25–Worship at 10:30 a.m.; Pastor Carol Clements will speak on “Focused”, based on Mark 8:31-38.  Consistory meets after worship; there will be a coffee hour in Oppermann Hall after worship.

Tuesday, February 27–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 a.m.; TOPS, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 28–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.

Thursday, March 1–Kindergarten WCE; No community meal at the Senior Center this Thursday

Sunday, March 4–Communion served during worship

God of Promise, we come as your people rejoicing in the abundance of your love. Give us faith to answer your call.  Strengthen us to take up your cross.  Guide us into a deep and abiding trust.  Lead us on a journey toward wholeness so that we may become your holy people faithfully serving you.  Amen.


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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  January 23,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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